MONROE - Fears that a liberal presidential administration will impose more restrictions on gun ownership have triggered a frenzy of gun buying at local suppliers, who are struggling to restock their shelves with firearms and ammunition.
"It's blow-off-the-shelf sales," said Dennis Serpi, owner of Master Class Shooters Supply in Monroe. "The whole country's in a buying panic that can't be controlled."
Most of the buying is fueled by unsubstantiated fears that more liberals in control of government will result in new firearms restrictions, area shop owners said.
"I don't think there's anything proposed right now," said Bob Lounsbury, owner of a Middletown gun and sporting goods store. "But we have a Democratic president and Congress, so restrictions would be easier to get through at this time."
Shop owners say new customers include women, fearful not only of possible new restrictions but, as the recession deepens, their safety.
"I think some of it has to do with the time we live in, a little more crime, a little more things going on," Lounsbury said.
Spokesmen for U. S. Reps. Maurice Hinchey, D-Hurley, and John Hall, D-Dover Plains, said they knew of no new gun laws proposed, either in Congress or by the new president.
"It seems to be a concern rooted in someone's own worry than in actual facts," said Hinchey spokesman Jeff Lieberson.
Still, Second Amendment advocates have grown suspicious about the new president, especially since his comment during the presidential race about Americans who "cling to guns or religion" during times of hardship, gun shop owners said.
"Most everyone who comes in says they're afraid they are going to lose their rights, that's what most people are telling me," said Rick Buono, owner of Rix Gun Exchange on Route 17M in the Town of Goshen.
Gun permit offices in Orange and Sullivan counties have seen their new permit numbers hit 200 and 100, respectively for the first three months of 2009, a doubling from the same period a year ago.
Ulster County saw a small increase in 2008, though that could have resulted from a backlog in unprocessed applications in 2007, said Sheriff Paul VanBlarcum. Despite huge revenue drops in manufacturing, gun makers are seeing strong profits.
According to the company Web site, Smith & Wesson's quarterly earnings from firearms sales, as of the end of January, were up 28 percent, year over year. Similarly, Remington reported a 10 percent year-over-year increase in a recent quarterly report.
Serpi reported shortages of everything in his store. Guns in Serpi's store range from a few hundred to several thousand dollars in price.
The last time gun stores saw this big a run was in 1994, just after the passage of the Brady Law, which requires background checks for the sale of handguns to individuals.
"I think this is a much bigger buying spree, and it's lasted a whole lot longer," Serpi said. "And I don't think it's over either."